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Analysis and Comment (93)

The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, criticised Australia in his opening address to the UN Human Rights Council. EPA/Salvatore di Nolfi

Explainer: why is the UN reviewing Australia’s record on torture?

The Australian government is being examined on Monday evening by the United Nations Committee against Torture. Before the independent committee of experts, an Australian government delegation has to answer…
Protestors demand answers over undercover policing in 2011. John Stillwell/PA Archive

British undercover police never had a moral compass to lose

The Metropolitan Police has agreed to pay more than £400,000 to an anonymous woman who unwittingly entered a relationship with an undercover police officer investigating her. The woman was left traumatised…
Kicking foreign prisoners out isn’t – and shouldn’t be – easy. Yorkshire Police

Why it’s difficult to deport foreign offenders

Once upon a time, you could tell an election was just around the corner when politicians of all kinds started talking relentlessly about crime. “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was Tony Blair’s…
Troops conduct an anti-terrorist drill in front of a banner of one of the Saudi royal family. Despite the kingdom’s role in fostering extremism, the US sees Saudi Arabia as an ally against Islamic State. EPA/Saudi Press Agency

Anti-terrorism plan must tackle ‘allies’ who also fuel radicalism

As Australia prepares to join combat operations, the coalition of nations stitched together by the US in response to the developing threat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS or ISIL) is overlooking the…
Symbols such as the monument of the slain Indonesian generals continue to propagate Suharto’s version of events to today’s Indonesian youth. Chez Julius Livre 1/Flickr

Breaking the silence around the 1965 Indonesian genocide

Next year it will be 50 years since a group of middle-ranking army officers abducted the top brass of the Indonesian army. They had planned to bring them before President Sukarno, as they had heard rumours…
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng toast the resettlement deal, which has alarmed refugee advocates. EPA/Mak Remissa

Explainer: does the Cambodia refugee deal comply with the convention?

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Australia and Cambodia raises important questions about Australia’s international legal obligations, the nature of regional refugee protection and resettlement…
Friends of assassinated rights activist Munir Said Thalib within Joko Widodo’s circle can influence the president-elect to re-open the murder case. EPA/MAST IRHAM

Audio Q&A: Activist’s murder case a test for new Indonesian president

Indonesian human rights activist Usman Hamid says president-elect Joko Widodo could do better than the outgoing Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in solving the murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib, despite…
Those who’ve had their digital privacy violated should have legal rights too. Reid Rosenberg/Flickr

It’s time for privacy invasion to be a legal wrong

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) yesterday recommended introducing new laws that would give a legal remedy for serious invasions of privacy. Unfortunately, the federal government has already…
Australia’s defence of Sri Lanka’s human rights record disregards an ingrained culture of violence as part of that country’s political landscape. EPA/M.A. Pushpa Kumara

War is over, but not Sri Lanka’s climate of violence and threats

The Australian government has become the great defender of Sri Lanka’s post-war human rights credentials, it seems. But Sri Lanka’s (and Australia’s) insistence that the end of the civil war means an end…
Iain Duncan Smith: hardship, despair, and destitution. Anthony Devlin/PA

Human rights case against welfare reforms keeps growing

On July 5, the Daily Mail mounted yet another attack on the pesky human rights folk who have the temerity to question the coalition government’s welfare agenda. The article, headlined “The Brazil Nut strikes…
Righting human rights wrongs has never been high on the Sri Lankan agenda despite international pressures. EPA/M.A. Pushpa Kumara

UN inquiry holds few terrors for a Sri Lanka used to impunity

The Sri Lankan government is on the defensive again over human rights. It is hoping to ride out a diplomatic storm after failing to thwart a UN Human Rights Council vote approving an international investigation…
George Brandis wants to protect the ‘right to be a bigot’ in the name of free speech. But the government may seek to remove such a right in relation to corporations. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

In the government’s hierarchy of values, is free speech at the top?

The federal government has indicated that it is considering repealing an exemption in the Competition and Consumer Act that provides for boycotts of companies on environmental grounds. The government is…
Federal attorney-general George Brandis wants to champion a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights, but what does this actually mean? AAP/Daniel Munoz

What is a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights?

Tim Wilson, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, has announced that he will take a “classical liberal” approach to human rights. There is a fair degree of confusion about what this means. Classical liberalism…
Attorney-General George Brandis has no qualms about “shackling” free speech to protect property, hence his presence at a copyright forum this month, yet he rejects other constraints. AAP/Alan Porritt

Free speech: what it is and what it isn’t

Tim Wilson has finally taken up his post as Human Rights Commissioner after controversy about his appointment late last year. Many questioned the suitability of a candidate without relevant legal-administrative…
Running out of time: Khmer Rouge defendant Nuon Chea. Wikimedia Commons

Cambodia hurries to prosecute ageing Khmer Rouge leaders

More than 30 years after they were deposed, the leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge are on trial in the country they once ruled. The body set up to prosecute them, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts…
BFFs: IOC President Thomas Bach and Vladimir Putin. David Goldman/AP

Russia and the IOC are the perfect match

Nationalism is the main event at any Olympic Games, and the Olympic industry relies on the goosebumps effects of the sporting spectacle to divert public attention from its less attractive underbelly, in…
Xu Zhiyong, jailed for four years. for inciting public disorder. Wikimedia Commons

China’s war on thought is being waged in Western universities

In the past decade, US and UK universities have embarked on a program of developing formal relationships, exchanges, and partnerships with their counterparts in China. No scholar interested in promoting…
Attorney-general George Brandis has put his imprimatur on the Human Rights Commission with the appointment of the IPA’s Tim Wilson as Human Rights Commissioner. AAP/Daniel Munoz

The two Tims, the IPA and the future of human rights in Australia

There is something both utterly predictable and wonderfully larrikin about federal attorney-general George Brandis' appointment of the Institute for Public Affairs’ (IPA) self-described “classic liberal…
Kamiar Alaei: ‘It was the right thing to do’.

I was jailed for my work on HIV in Iran, but the tide is turning

Brothers, Kamiar and Arash Alaei were imprisoned in Iran in 2008 for their work with HIV. Under a new government, Iran’s health minister, Hassan Hashemi, has blamed “misinformation and unscientific claims…
Sustainable palm oil production should have local consent: often, it doesn’t. Rainforest Action Network

Sustainable palm oil must consider people too

Businesses, government and civil society met this month in Medan, Indonesia, for the 11th annual Roundtable meeting on sustainable palm oil. While orangutan conservation organisations dominated conversations…
Banged up: a Bill on prisoners' voting rights is presently before parliament. PA Archive

Prisoners should not be locked out of democracy

The news that Peter Chester and George McGeoch have had their Supreme Court appeal against the ban on prison inmates voting dismissed will cause few people on the outside to lose much sleep - in fact the…
The threat to human rights should be a central focus of climate change action. Flickr/The World Wants a Real Deal

Human rights and climate change: a fresh perspective

Climate change has been considered under many lenses – economic, geopolitical, diplomatic and developmental. However, human rights are rarely considered. Instead, they are a peripheral concern for the…
The not just cold, but troubled waters of the Russian Arctic. Will Rose/Greenpeace

Jailing Greenpeace activists will harden attitudes to Russia

Russia’s overreaction in prosecuting Greenpeace protesters, including the two journalists, is set to unfold into an international scandal that will seriously damage country’s global reputation. So far…
We can’t hope to ensure basic human rights until we learn to respect our differences and welcome diversity in society. Image from shutterstock.com

Watch your manners: why living racism-free is a basic human right

When considering contemporary human rights issues in Australia – our denial of refugee rights, the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in juvenile detention and racial vilification on public…
It’s getting crowded up there. Copyright, European Space Agency, ESA

George Clooney isn’t the only one with an eye in the sky

George Clooney revealed details last week about “his” spy satellite over Sudan, which he funds to keep an eye on the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who has been accused of war crimes. The Satellite…
Ordinary rendition: Abu Qatada has been returned to Jordan to face trial. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Qatada saga has eroded our commitment to human rights

Abu Qatada was deported to Jordan from the UK in the early hours of Sunday morning to face terrorism charges. For the British home secretary, Theresa May, it was a triumph in the face of a judiciary which…
With inadequate resources, it’s as difficult to deliver choice as babies. Flickr: David Swift Photography

50 years on, we’re still fighting for women’s childbirth rights

For decades there has been a struggle between those arguing for women’s wishes to come first when it comes to childbirth and those who believe that a healthy baby is the only important consideration…
Mobile coffins: dozens of British service personnel have been killed in the army’s Snatch Landrovers. Wikimedia Commons

Explainer: how are soldiers' rights protected in a war zone?

The recent Supreme Court decision to allow families of British personnel killed in Iraq to sue the government for negligence set up a barrage of cries about the judgment making it impossible for our armed…
Nothing to hide? Really?

Explainer: the right to privacy in the UK

How long ago did we acquire the right to privacy? When was it formalised? In this country it would be only in the year 2000, the year in which the Human Rights Act came into force; it incorporated the…
Another High Court challenge to the Gillard government’s indefinite detention of ‘legal black hole’ refugees has experts calling for alternatives. AAP/Jeremy Piper

As a High Court challenge looms, are there alternatives to Australia’s indefinite detention policy?

The Gillard government is facing another High Court challenge to its indefinite detention of the 55 refugees to have received adverse security assessments from ASIO. These continuing legal troubles, along…
Julia Gillard meets with Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2011 CHOGM meeting: should Australia boycott the 2013 meeting in Sri Lanka over human rights concerns? AAP/Daniel Munoz

Sri Lanka and human rights: Australia’s CHOGM dilemma

Given its long association with the Commonwealth, it is no surprise that Sri Lanka is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in November this year. These biannual meetings are normally…
Campaigners say the Australian government should take a stronger stance against Chinese occupation and human rights abuse in Tibet. EPA/Narendra Shrestha

Self-immolation and human rights: why we need to talk about Tibet

In the past week, the number of Tibetan self-immolations in protest against the Chinese occupation has risen to 111 since 2009. Despite the increasing numbers of Tibetans self-immolating and general unrest…
Every Parent’s Nightmare tells the true story of Australian Jock Palfreeman, caught in Bulgaria’s corrupt legal system. ABC TV/AAP

The case of Jock Palfreeman and the human rights of Australians overseas

Australians running into trouble with the law overseas is a common topic in the news. The coverage is usually fleeting, ending with the announcement of a conviction or, less often, an acquittal. Belinda…
We were delighted to be elected to the security council, now we must make the most of our tenure. AAP/Andrew Gombert

Australia must take a human rights focus at the security council

Now that Australia has taken its seat on the UN Security Council, it is worth considering how we might make a difference. Former diplomat Bruce Haig has recently dismissed Australia’s new role as chair…
While FGC is common in Africa, the practice is illegal in many Western countries. Flickr/tlupic

Time for change: the harms of female genital cutting

Female genital cutting (FGC) – also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision – is widely practised in Africa and has been described by UNICEF “one of the worst violations of the…
Infant male circumcision violates aspects of international human rights law, which Australia is bound to uphold. Chris Woods

Infant male circumcision: stop violating boys' human rights

In an article published recently on this site, “Male circumcision policy ignores research showing benefits”, the authors stated some alleged benefits of infant male circumcision and argued the Royal Australasian…
Commodore Frank Bainimarama could learn a lot from China about quashing human rights. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Fiji looks north to China as human rights head south at home

Yesterday’s rapprochement between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, with the re-establishment of diplomatic ties at High Commissioner level, needs to be seen in the context of other recent events in Fiji’s…
The focus on human rights during the Beijing Olympics made little difference. Akira Liwang/EPA

Human rights and the Olympics: games of freedom or oppression?

When we think of the Olympic Games, we think of an athletic event: well-honed bodies at the peak of physical ability, performing feats most of us can only dream of. But, despite fervent assertions to the…
Western Governments will be recklessly ignoring their human rights obligations if they continue to support Shell in its US supreme court case. EPA/George Esiri

Oil for lives? When governments help bad corporations

We all know corporations do bad things. Big corporates have been publicly named and shamed for their participation in causing harm to people and the planet, and they are not always held to account. As…
Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton holds up Azaria’s death certificate, confirming her daughter’s death by dingo attack. AAP/Patrina Malone

Lessons from the Chamberlain case: the human cost of wrongful conviction

The Azaria Chamberlain case is a reminder that the criminal justice system does get it wrong, with each error bearing its own human cost. On Tuesday, the Northern Territory Coroner’s office concluded an…
Gaddafi’s son may not get a fair trial in Libya. EPA/Mast Irham

Should Saif al-Islam Gaddafi be tried in Libya or the Hague?

The Government of Libya filed an application before the International Criminal Court earlier this month to challenge the admissibility of the cases against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son…
Finally children’s rights will be represented at the national level in Australia. Flickr/vastateparksstaff

A long wait: Australia finally gets a Children’s Commissioner

A national Children’s Commissioner to champion the rights of Australia’s young people was announced last week by the Gillard government. The long overdue announcement is a welcome development and should…
Jose Maria Vasconcelos (or Taur Matan Ruak) is the new president of East Timor, but will he do more for the women in his country? AAP/Antonio Dasiparu

East Timor: new President, same problems for women

The recent election of José Maria de Vasconcelos, or Taur Matan Ruak as he is known, to the Presidency of Timor-Leste is not good news for women in that country. Adding yet another member of the male military…
Intellectually disabled children who undergo the “Ashley procedure” are stunted to prevent the onset of puberty. flickr/visions by vicky

Ashley’s treatment: the arrested development of a disabled child

A growing number of parents are seeking the “Ashley Treatment,” a highly experimental medical intervention designed to arrest the physical and sexual development of severely disabled children. This invasive…
The government’s obligations to immigration detainees are very similar to those of prisoners. AAP/Dean Lewins

After Serco, what rights do asylum seekers have in detention?

A training manual instructing immigration detention centre guards to use force to incapacitate detainees was leaked this week. It included techniques to kick, punch and target pressure points on detainees…
The covers of two of the first editions of Tintin. AAP

Tintin, human rights and politics

An upsurge of interest in Tintin, the cartoon boy reporter who was the creation of Belgian artist Hergé (1907-1983), has accompanied the release of the Tintin movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret…
Newly appointed Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon may be surprised to find the bill of rights she doesn’t want is already in place. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Roxon got it right: we don’t need a bill of rights because we’ve already got one

The new Commonwealth Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has said that in her new role she would not push for a bill of rights to be included in the constitution. But many would be surprised to learn she doesn’t…
Occupy protestors have a right to protest; police powers to move them on from public spaces should be questioned. RynChristophe/Youtube

Moving right along: what powers do police have to ‘move-on’ protestors?

When police removed a young woman’s “tent dress” this week at the Occupy Melbourne encampment, it was yet another controversial interaction between protesters and authorities. As shown in the Occupy movement…
Julia Gillard spoke to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa about allegations of human rights abuses at a pre-CHOGM summit. AAP Image/Reuters/Daniel Munoz

CHOGM: Do we need a Commonwealth Human Rights Commissioner?

CHOGM As the meeting between Commonwealth Heads of Government kicks off in Perth, a row is brewing over the idea for a new Commissioner on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Holly Cullen from…
The conflict still looms large in Sri Lanka - half a million land mines are still scattered throughout the country, and there’s a huge international effort to clear them. AFP/Ishara S.Kodikara

Why the Commonwealth must take action against Sri Lankan war crimes

CHOGM: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is among the Commonwealth leaders gathering in Perth this week. But his government is accused of committing war crimes against its own people. Ben Saul, Professor…
US sailors load cluster bombs onto an aircraft before an attack on targets in Afghanistan. AAP

Australia’s cluster bomb conundrum

Cluster bombs are currently the subject of considerable humanitarian concern internationally because of their indiscriminate effect. Every year, thousands of civilians, many of them children, are killed…
Protestors outside the High Court during a previous hearing in Malaysian Solution case. AAP

Malaysia Solution: High Court ruling explained

The Gillard government’s refugee policy is in disarray after the full bench of the High Court today made permanent injunctions preventing the removal of asylum seekers to Malaysia. The action was initially…
Australia dispersed refugees who were rescued by the Tampa, and its policies haven’t improved. AAP/Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Australia’s human rights record has not improved since the Tampa

The dramatic rescue of more than 400 asylum seekers by the Norwegian vessel, the Tampa, ten years ago set in train a series of events that has since caused immense suffering to so many. It is surely now…

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